Mayor selects UIC lecturer for Paris delegation

Kathryn Engel, University of Illinois Chicago senior lecturer in psychology, has chaired exchanges and developed best practices between the leaders of Chicago and Paris for more than 15 years through Chicago Sister Cities International.

Kathryn Engel; Silver Circle Award Winner
Kathryn Engel (Photo: Jenny Fontaine)

For the last five years, she has chaired the organization’s steering committee for social services in eight cities.  

Her work with Paris recently came full circle when she was selected to be a member of Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s international delegation of city officials and local leaders. Lightfoot and her delegation teams spent July 11-15 visiting London and Paris to tout Chicago’s economic strengths and further develop its international connections.

As part of the mayor’s Paris group, each delegate had a role to observe and integrate information to bring best practices home to Chicago as well as contribute to “exciting and synergistic brainstorming” discussions about how to advance Chicago’s interests in Paris, Engel said.

“It was a complete honor to be on this delegation and watch our mayor lead with values throughout and acknowledge the power of citizen diplomacy,” she said. “This was a great opportunity for me to advance the work that UIC is doing in Paris.”

Engel, who also serves as director of internships in the applied psychology program, began her delegation duties shortly after a five-week study abroad program where UIC students gained real-world experience through contracted social service internships with the City of Paris. The student internships dealt with topics such as gender-based violence, homelessness, domestic violence, workforce development, and youth, as well as child abuse prevention and treatment.

“I am so proud of the work we do and the exceptionally strong connections we have made with the highest level of leaders of the social services in Paris,” she said.

The summer study abroad course was inaugurated in 2015 and continues to provide students unparalleled access to internships.

City Hall of Paris, France, by UIC students
Kathryn Engel (pictured center) is joined at the city hall of Paris, France, by UIC students (left to right) Caitlyn Chapman, Audrey Williams, Jessica Eufracio, Caelye McAndrew, Emmanuel Robles, Teresa DeLuca, Beatrice Braimah and Claire Holmes, all of whom were participants in the Transatlantic Mobility Program.

“The opportunities for enhancing career opportunities and graduate admissions are well documented by the history of students in this program. More importantly, it opens their minds to new practices and ways of doing things that they bring home to change their studies and research,” she said.

This past spring, 10 UIC students joined Engel in Paris, where they met and worked with social work, psychology and international management students from Université Paris-Est Creteil Val de Marne and the Ecole pratique de service social.

The groups addressed pandemic topics and best practices in Chicago and Paris, in addition to domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse, homelessness and mental illness, inclusion of all identities, racism and the LGBTQ+ community, and the compassion fatigue of essential workers.

The experience was the second edition of UIC’s Global Virtual Exchange course, which was made possible by a second grant received from the FACE Foundation in partnership with the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in Washington, D.C., and the American Embassy in Paris. The first grant helped launch a 2021 version of the initiative that offered a virtual international exchange that brought together students and scholars from the three universities.

“The success of this program is exceptionally impactful, and we will welcome the two French universities at UIC this fall. The outcomes are excellent, for example, one student was awarded the Teaching Assistant Program in France award from the French government for her work in this program,“ Engel said. 

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